Pres­i­dent, GOP look for way out of shut­down

Clo­sure set to hit record length; Trump backs off emer­gency idea

The Oklahoman - - NA­TION | WORLD - BY JONATHAN LEMIRE, LISA MAS­CARO AND JILL COLVIN

WASH­ING­TON — Fed­eral work­ers got pay state­ments of­fer­ing noth­ing but ze­roes Fri­day, the most tan­gi­ble and painful sign yet of a three-week par­tial gov­ern­ment shut­down that has par­a­lyzed Wash­ing­ton and is sure to be­come the long­est clo­sure in U.S. his­tory. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and ner­vous Repub­li­cans scram­bled to find a way out of the mess.

The House and Sen­ate voted to give fed­eral work­ers back­pay when­ever the fed­eral gov­ern­ment re­opens and then left town for the week­end, leav­ing the shut­down on track to be­come one for the record books once the clock struck mid­night and en­tered its 22nd day. And while Trump pri­vately con­sid­ered one dra­matic es­cape route — declar­ing a na­tional emer­gency to build the wall with­out a new stream of cash from Congress — mem­bers of his own party were fiercely de­bat­ing that idea, and the pres­i­dent urged Congress to come up with an­other so­lu­tion.

“What we’re not look­ing to do right now is na­tional emer­gency,” Trump said. He in­sisted that he had the au­thor­ity to do that, adding: “I’m not go­ing to do it so fast be­cause this is some­thing Congress can do.”

About 800,000 work­ers missed pay­checks Fri­day, many re­ceiv­ing blank pay state­ments. Some posted pho­tos of their empty earn­ings state­ments on so­cial me­dia as a ral­ly­ing cry to end the shut­down, a jar­ring im­age that many in the White House feared could turn more vot­ers against the pres­i­dent as he holds out for bil­lions in new wall fund­ing.

With polls show­ing Trump get­ting most of the blame for the shut­down, the ad­min­is­tra­tion ac­cel­er­ated plan­ning for a pos­si­ble emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion to try to get around Congress and fund the wall from ex­ist­ing sources of fed­eral rev­enue. The White House ex­plored di­vert­ing money for wall con­struc­tion from a range of other ac­counts. One idea be­ing con­sid­ered was di­vert­ing some of the $13.9 bil­lion al­lo­cated to the Army Corps of En­gi­neers af­ter last year’s deadly hur­ri­canes and floods.

That op­tion trig­gered an up­roar in Puerto Rico, which is still slowly re­build­ing, and ap­peared to lose steam on Fri­day.

Repub­li­can Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas told re­porters af­ter dis­cus­sions with the White House: “I feel con­fi­dent dis­as­ter re­lief dol­lars will not be tapped.” Brady said the ad­min­is­tra­tion was look­ing at the “breadth” of un­spent dol­lars in other gov­ern­ment ac­counts.

[AP PHOTO]

Jack Lyons, a con­trac­tor work­ing on mas­sive rocket test stands for NASA, stands in his work­shop while spend­ing the fur­lough on his small side busi­ness mak­ing props for march­ing bands Tues­day in Madi­son, Ala. “They’re try­ing to use peo­ple as bar­gain­ing chips, and it just isn’t right,” Lyons said. Un­like civil ser­vice work­ers who ex­pect to even­tu­ally get back pay, Lyons doesn’t know if he’ll ever see a dol­lar from the shut­down pe­riod.

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